Tips for Succeeding at Work
Now that you know the pros of working outweigh the cons, you want to make work as comfortable and successful as possible. Here’s how:
- Know yourself while you know your symptoms. Depression changes on a regular basis. It is rarely ever constant. Feeling tired and a slight loss of motivation one day can transform into complete inability to function just a few days later. Look for patterns in your symptoms. Along the way look for triggers in your depression. Triggers are people, places and things that increase your symptoms. Do your symptoms flare around the time the quarterly reports are due? Did you call off the last three Mondays because the thought of the starting another week was too overwhelming? Understanding patterns, triggers and trends gives you the information you need to build a plan.
- Plan for goals that are realistic. The expectations you put on yourself and others shape the way you see the world. If you expect to “push through” another work day with willpower and determination, you will likely be let down and disappointed. If you expect your coworker, assistant or your boss to notice that you are having a bad day and go easy on you because of it, you will experience disillusionment, which can only increase depression. Be fair to yourself and others. Accept the notion that work will not be perfect at all times, and you will not be perfect, either.
- Practice and perfect your self-care. This is necessary in and out of the workplace. Self-care can be completed in a variety of thought-based or behavioral ways. Thought-based are convenient because you can do them throughout the day without others knowing. Make a mental list of the positives in your workplace or the people you come in contact with throughout the day. Spend a few moments imagining that you were elsewhere for a taste of escape. Behavioral self-care includes finding times during the day to complete a simple relaxation technique. You can do many in a cubicle including deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Ask a friend to walk during lunch for the double benefit of exercise and socialization.
- Do not keep it like a secret. Advocating for yourself in the workplace is a fantastic thing to do. Do you have a Human Resources member, a union representative or an understanding supervisor? Talk to them. If you carry a mental health diagnosis from a medical provider you are included the in the Americans with Disabilities Act. You cannot be fired from your position solely based on your disability. In fact, you actually qualify for special accommodations. Use the information you have gathered from your symptoms tracking and communicate this to the appropriate person. Chances are excellent they will provide you with valuable resources like an Employee Assistance Program that provides counseling or information about Family Medical Leave Act which can extend your time off work if needed.
- Prepare and prevent. Waiting until after the poor performance review has already been filed with HR is too late to begin communicating your mental health issues at work. Reacting then or when symptoms are high will put you at a disadvantage because it could be seen as a reaction or excuse. Be upfront, clear and appropriate while using a suitable level of self-disclosure. Explore and experiment with ways to discuss your mental health. Options include: “I am concerned that my depression may negatively impact my future work performance. Can we work on some goals or plans for when symptoms flare?” Saying “I have noticed that Monday mornings tend to trigger higher depressive symptoms for me. Is there a way I could work afternoons instead?” is more desirable than “I am too sick to come into work today.” Honesty is always better than dishonesty. Even if your employer does not meet your requests fully, they will have a better understanding of your current mental and emotional state.
You may have some hesitation discussing your mental health at work. This is a natural concern as some even struggle to disclose their issues to trusted family and friends. If you have been reluctant to let your workplace know, think again. The impact you can make to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace will benefit you and those that come after you. With honesty, planning and preparation, the success you find in the workplace can follow you home.